Feeding the older horse can be a challenge. And the biggest challenge I had when bringing Plezant home was accommodating the special feeding plan that he needs. And I admit, I was terrified I would do something to jeopardize his health with my lack of knowledge of how to feed him. But I am here to report it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
I did a lot of research when it came to his special needs. In his previous life his teeth were floated, and floated, and floated. Now he doesn’t have enough tooth to break down hay. So twice a day he gets a feeding tub full of mush. And he loves it. The sloppier the better.
He gets a combination of softened pellets, beet pulp, and a few supplements mixed in every morning and then every evening. And in my new routine, I have come up with a plan that works for us, and I thought it might be helpful for you too.
Why Soften Feed
If your horse has dental issues, you may need to soften the food he eats. Or if he has a difficult time chewing, softening his feed can make it easier for him.
In my example, Plezant, my new horse, has such issues. He still likes to munch on hay, but he can’t process it as well. So adding in the pellets, and beet pulp, helps to meet the nutritional and caloric needs that he has.
And even though he can’t get his calories like Frisby does, he still enjoys his hay. Especially if there is some alfalfa intermingled in the regular hay. So he gets a full hay net twice a day, but his mush (hay pellets) is where he gets the calories.
When I brought Plezant home, I kept his feed the same as what it was. He was getting 1 feed scoop full of orchard grass pellets twice a day. So I kept it the same.
Thankfully, hay pellets are easily sourced where I live. So I have two different feed stores that I can go to that carry the Standlee hay pellets. But as I have had him for almost a month now, I have been doing some research on which pellets would be best for him.
And I decided that switching him to Alfalfa/Timothy pellets would be a better choice. There are more calories in the alfalfa mix pellets. And this boy needs some calories.
I have been very happy with these pellets. They are affordable, and like I said before, easy to find. It’s a little bit more labor intensive than just feeding hay, but not too much.
How To Soften Hay Pellets
To make Plezant’s meals, this is what I do:
- Put 1 scoop of the pellets in a bucket
- Add 2 1/2 gallons of water
- Allow 2 hours to soak
- Check for expansion
- Feed Plezant
And that’s it! Not to hard right? My husband helps me on days I’m at work, he has a timer set for 4:00 PM when he adds the water to the pellets. So by the time I get home around 6:00 PM, the mush is just about ready to serve to Plezant.
But there are some extras that I add to his ‘mush’.
I have heard of beet pulp before, and only utilized it in the concentrated feed that Frisby gets. Until now. But like the pellets, I have been researching beet pulp to see if this would be a good thing for my horses.
Beet pulp is the fibrous material that remains after most of the sugar is removed from sugar beets. Dried beet pulp is available in shredded or pelleted form. It is fed as a digestible fiber supplement to a horse’s fiber or forage needs, and dried beet pulp may be incorporated into quality horse feeds as a source of digestible fiber and to significantly lower the sugar and starch content of the feed. Beet pulp is an excellent ingredient for complete horse feeds, where no hay or a limited amount of hay or pasture is fed, such as feeds for older horses or horses with respiratory problems such as heaves.
I have incorporated beet pulp into Plezant’s feed, as well as Frisby’s. And just like the pelleted feed getting soaked, I soak the beet pulp as well. I use the beet pulp shreds, because they don’t have any added molasses.
Preparing The Beet Pulp
I have a smaller bucket with a lid, and I fill the bucket half full of the dried beet pulp shreds. Then I add cold water, cover it and put it in the garage where it’s cold. I keep it in the cold so that it will not ferment. This could change over the summer months when it’s super hot. But for now, the garage method is working well.
Just before I feed Plezant his mush, I add in about 2 cups of the soaked beet pulp. Then I mix everything together. If it is too clumpy, I add in some extra water. It is the perfect consistency (in my opinion) if the spoon stands up on it’s own in the mush.
It isn’t a lot of beet pulp that I add. But it does add some extra calories. So far I have been really happy with the calories that Plezant is getting. And the beet pulp adds a little extra to his meal.
I really like the Standlee Beet pulp shreds. For a 25lb bag, it costs $9.99. And a bag of shreds will feed both of my horses for about 3 weeks.
I didn’t really know the process of adding water to expand the beet pulp at first. I just knew that I needed to so my horse wouldn’t choke. So I started watching videos, and reading how other people feed it, and I found a lot of discrepancies. Some say they feed the shreds without soaking, while many say they use hot water to soak the pulp.
But from everything I have been reading from manufacture’s is to use cold water to soak the pulp to prevent it from fermenting. You don’t want to feed your horse fermented feed. If you go to feed it and it smells like grapes, or wine, don’t feed it, because it is fermented.
Adding in Extras
Ok, I have the pellets, and beet pulp. Now I have a few extras that I add in for Plezant’s mush.
Every morning, and evening, I add in a little bit of electrolyte powder. I do this for Frisby too. I really like the Apple a Day Finish Line Electrolytes. And the horse’s like it too. It is the most affordable option that I have found.
A 15 lb. tub costs $28.00 at Horse.com and it lasts a very long time.
Omega Fields Horseshine
I have talked about this product many times. Horseshine is the absolute best product I have found that really makes a difference in their coat. If you are wondering what it has in it, here you go:
Ingredients: Stabilized Ground Flax Seed, Biotin, Yeast Culture (Diamond V Yeast), Ground Oats, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin, and Thiamine.
You can find it at most feed stores, but in case you can’t, Riding Warehouse carries Horseshine too.
And that’s it. Those are the only two supplements I use for my horses. During the spring, I will add in Simplifly. Simplifly is a feed through larvacide that helps break the life cycle of flies. I feed this supplement beginning in March, and going through October to help keep the fly population down. It really helps.
Feeding The Older Horse
And that’s it! That is how I feed my senior horses. It may take a little extra effort on my part, but it’s worth it.
I am very passionate about caring for my horses, and making sure I am doing everything I can to keep them healthy. And they are probably a little larger than some. But as long as they are healthy, that is what I care about.
I hope this is helpful for you. And I hope if you are considering feeding a pelleted feed to your horse this post will give you some help on how you can feed a pelleted feed to your horse safely. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to take Plezant his breakfast mush.